Calm between storms

Doug, Craig, John, Daniel, Heidi, Hovey and Alexis. I miss you guys already!

Yesterday was our final Door County show, a matinee for Vespus at Third Avenue Playhouse.  What a beautiful audience! We had hardly recovered from the late night Scumbaag Show at Sonny’s the night before.

Timpani and chimes. In a bar? Go Hovey!

John, Dan and Craig in Skumbaag costume. No, this is not a kid’s show- It’s weirder!

The week has sped past, and this morning Doug, John, Hovey and Alexis pulled up stakes and moved out,  heading back to obligations in Albuquerque and Phoenix.  Craig has returned to grading papers for the online course he teaches, and Daniel and I are having a day of catching up and rest.  Laundry, computer life chores and sleep are the top 3.  Later we will pack up the Ohana Mobile and prepare  for the next phase of the tour.

Tomorrow we drive to Palatine, Ill, a suburb of Chicago and teach a workshop hosted by old friends Deb and Tracy.  This will be fun and easy.   Simple set up with the PA, tune a dozen instruments and teach about 15 people how to play.  Deb and Tracy are improv buddies from Los Angeles, and I can’t wait to do a few musical improv forms with them.  Irish drinking song, Hoe-down, the blues….  It’s been a long time.  Check back for posts on that!

I am feverishly searching for pick up players to fill in for the band in Saint Louis on Friday, and I need to put some sort of a set list in order for the next month.  When all the guys are around it is easy to get spoiled.  I know they always have my back, and things get richer with each play.  Starting from zero with new players, while thrilling, can be a trust exercise.  Especially when meeting them hours before downbeat.  If you have a ringer, let me know!

Setting up at Sonny’s

Last night Vespus Marimba Band played Sonny’s,where Early Thomas fed us really tasty pizza and 2012 dark beer.  It was an incredible show with 2 marimbas, steel drum, virtuosic playing and lots of laughs.

Tonight we are back- this time in costume with a wilder, crazier rig in the guise of Skumbaag

This morning has been spent on maintenance- of our lives and pages at the McClelland in-house internet cafe

and soldering some weak links.

and rehearsing.  More more more rehearsing…..
for tonight’s big show!

If you are in this neck of the woods, pop into Sonny’s in fish Creek and prepare to have your mind blown!

Band Profiles: Doug and John

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Dug and John chuffing with Jake, the World’s Largest Cat

As we drove across the country we could tell when Doug and John had put on heavy metal music because the “DuggieBuggy” would put on speed.

I came to the band via John.  My friend/cousin Kristen was dating John when I met her in 1984.  I remember her telling me: “See that guy?  I’m gonna marry him some day.”  And she did.

John, back in the day

John Bartlit is one of those genius musicians.  Piano prodigy, guitar crazy composing percussionist who makes his living in Albuquerque as a jazz drummer.  He can make music out of a mop handle and a concrete floor.  When I wanted to record a CD to teach kids ukulele, John was my first call. We set up in his garage with Daniel Ward as engineer.  I wanted to put down simple tracks and John was going to add a little special sauce where needed.  Things grew and became more complicated with every song.  Next thing you know 42 saw tracks have been laid down for “Down in the Valley” and Daniel is mixing and mastering a monster.

John contributed arrangements and played nearly all the parts, including tracks of banjo, bass, slide ukulele, beer can lid, found object percussion, jaw harp, and so many more oddities I couldn’t even name them if I tried.

John playing prepared electric guitar for Links Ensemble on John Cage's Fontana Mix

John playing prepared electric guitar for Links Ensemble on John Cage’s Fontana Mix

Doug (also known as “Dug”) comes from South Carolina, and his dry drawl makes everything he says sound funnier.  He is a professor at Glendale Community College in PHX,  and is beloved by his students for his unique blend of intellectualism and bubbaism.  (Bubbalectual?)  His New Classical music ensembles Links and, Crossing 32nd Street plays amazing contemporary chamber music. He can talk Finnegan’s Wake, esoteric electronic music and modern dance masters while holding happy hour court in the local microbrewery where the staff all know him on a first-name basis.  Be warned:he can make you laugh so hard the IPA will come out of your nose.  Here is a link to Dug playing a theremin solo in a Skumbaag song….

Not pictured: Dug’s most famous costume- the diaper.

John and Doug are founding members of Links Ensemble, dedicated to playing contemporary Chamber music and trans media performance.

John Bartlit, Andrew Squire, Doug Nottingham, Hovey Dean Corbin, Craig McClelland,and Andrew Fitek (not pictured: Daniel Ward)

If Dug is the the Lion to Craig’s  Tin Man, John would be the Wizard.

We are heading to the garage to work out a version of the Winky song with heavy metal break, and I get to read the Axolotl Rap tonight  when  Skumbaag tears it up at Sonny’s Pizzeria in Fish Creek.  What the local crowd will think of us is anybody’s guess…..

Skumbaag Band Camp

ImageThe worlds greatest (perhaps only) “Phantasmagoric 21st Century Heavy Metal Vaudville” band, Skumbaag is getting ready to take the stage tomorrow night.

They have been rehearsing great tunes like  “Mocha Jamocha”, a song ripe to be licensed by Starbucks.

I get to join them on a song- groupie’s dream come true.I first heard the guys in 1987, in one of their first shows.  I loved it.  Something about over educated sophomoric boy humor hits my weak spot.

Tonight we will be doing another variety show with Vespus at Sonny’s Pizzaria in Fish Creek.  Vespus is the marimba incarnation of their band, and there are some overlapping songs.

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In between rehearsals we have been doing relaxing boy-things, like skipping stones, playing pool….

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And singing along with the Jukebox at Waterfront Marys

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Winter’s “Frankenstien” air-style

Summer band camp, 2012!

Band Profiles: Hovey Dean and Alexix Corbin

ImageTogether they are Sol Calypso, the steel drum band, music as close to being sonic happiness as any sound you can ever imagine.

Of all the members of Skumbaag, I have known Hovey the longest.  His older sister Paula was my best friend throughout middle school and High School, and without her and their mother’s daily popping of after-school popcorn is is doubtful whether I would have survived to tell the tale.

Hovey came from a musical family and started down the musical prodigy path early.  I vaguely remember Hovey’s first drum set in the garret room of their two story house.  A score of years later, when I went to see Skumbaag playing in the (long closed) Fat Chance bar across from UNM I was SHOCKED to see him tearing it up on marimba and vocals wearing the costume of a Greek National.  I think everyone else was too, whether they knew him or not.  Skumbaag had that effect on people.Image

One of the shocking things about him (and every member of this band) is his level of musicianship.  He kills on marimba and steel drum, but then he’ll pick up the mandolin or guitar or banjo and further blow your mind.  However, if he’s needed on the drum set or bass he will sit either of those positions better then most who man the chair full time.  Baroque flute?  Sure, why not.  Bagpipe?  Yeah, that too.

The guys all lived in a house in the “student ghetto” section of Albuquerque.  It was sometimes referred to the percussion house or “Thriving Metropolis”.  There are many great music beer-infused tales of sloven levity from that time and place.  It seems fate that eventually, Hovey and his lovely wife Alexis ended up buying that house where they now live with their three smart, beautiful, musical kids.  And goats.  And chickens.

Yep.  They are that sort of urban survivalists who make their own cheese.  And meade?

Did I mention they are amazing cooks?  They have made us pesto and chili and eggs and fresh corn and brats with peppers and…. just on this trip!  Back home their sushi night is a feast you just hope you get invited back to.

DINNER AT THE CORBINS!!!!!

Band profiles: Craig McClelland

Our Man in Wisconsin!

First in the series of WHO ARE THESE GUYS?!

is CRAIG McCLELLAND

In 1987 a garage full of music students at the University of New Mexico were drinking beer and laughing with mighty ambivalence at heavy metal music.  So mighty, yet so stupid, rockin’ yet sophomoric… irresistible. Spinal Tap.  Yeah.  But what about creating a band that makes fun of it but still really rocks?  What if they threw in every last drop of musicianship each of them possessed, and added a heavy dose of theatricality and silliness.  Craig was there that night with John Bartlit, Daniel Ward, Doug Nottingham.
“I COULD QUIT THIS BAND LIKE…(finger snap) THAT!” Craig still says.  Last time we were together in Phoenix and Craig recited this line we laughed so hard the coffee came out of his nose.

Craig moved the furthest away, so I was late in becoming acquainted with him, but his kind and open nature has helped make up for lost time.  I believe he is the heart of the band.  If we were to cast The Wizard of Oz out of the band he would surely be the Tin Man.

Craig plays bass for Skumbaag, Vespus and the Sukey Jump band when ever we can get him.  We have also persuaded him to get his tuba out of the closet for us. He is also the keeper of the Skumbaag Website.  (Check this baby out!)

Kegg McNabb and Tiberious Knobbs

The guys have long maintained discreet band identities, and in Skumbaag Craig is known as “Keg McNabb”.  His Vespus moniker is “Bombo Metamucil, the regular bass player”.  Skumbaag has always worn some snappy outfits, and Craig had the dubious honor of wearing the Banana Suit.

Vintage furry banana era Skumbaag

There was a famous incident at the Golden West night club in Albuquerque (long since burned down) where a drunk went gun crazy outside the storefront bar.  Bullets flying, the band hit the deck.  Bellies to the sticky floor, Craig said to the rest, “I dont wanna die in a banana suit!”.

We’re glad you didn’t!

Craig  is still a full-time musician, and still plays regularly (!) in Door County.  His steady gig is with the American Folklore Theatre, where he plays under the stars and remembers what he loves about Wisconsin 2 times a week.

It was only this past year when the Sukey Jump Band had shows in Phoenix which overlapped some gigs Craig Doug and Daniel were playing together that I began to know Craig better.  The Sukey Jump band tends to be rather amorphous- taking in available musicians whenever and where ever possible, but always able to play any time, any where with any one.  After integrating Craig in on bass and tuba it is hard to go back.  I don’t look forward to the day we roll out of Sturgeon Bay and leave behind our “regular bass player”.

FISHBOIL!

ImageI, for one had never heard of a fishboil before I arrived in Door County.  Here is Tom from the White Gull Inn to fill you in.

ImageThe Vespus Marimba band, Sol Calypso, and Sukey Jump bands combined (well, as we are all the same people it wasn’t too hard) to make an amazing variety show. Here is Pedro Hernandez’s “Peny”.

Best of all, the fed us.  Well.  New lyrics have been crafted for Skumbaag’s “Speed Metal in Greece” involving a schooner of butter, cherry pie and ice cream and the neurological consequences.